Categories: Articles, Farm smart!, NewsPublished On: 18th March 2024

Technews: The latest in agricultural technology from around the world

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Tortuga

The Future Farming Ag Robot of the Year 2024 is the Tortuga AgTech strawberry and table grape harvesting robot.

Tortuga AgTech wins Ag Robot of the Year 2024 award

Last month we showed the top five contenders for the Ag Robot of the Year title in a competition run by Future Farming. The panel of judges chose the Tortuga AgTech strawberry and table grape harvesting robot as the winner. The robot is primarily designed for harvesting, but can also collect data for forecasts, treat plants with UV-C light and perform trimming.

The Digital Workbench Tipard 1800 was preferred by the majority of the public voters. (Photo: Mark Pasveer)

Each jury member judged the finalists individually according to these criteria:

  • Originality/technical breakthrough
  • Feasibility/market readiness
  • Potential to impact farmers’ life
  • Ease of farmer uptake, and
  • Sustainability

One of the main arguments why the jury chose Tortuga AgTech as the winner is the fact that the harvesting robot addresses one of the most significant challenges faced by agricultural businesses: the shortage of affordable and skilled labour. The jury was also impressed by its ability to harvest multiple types of fruits with a single robotic harvester. This machine transforms what was only a vision a few years ago into a reality. It demonstrates how ag robots are the future, making predictions come to life and inspiring others to explore the possibilities. It is highly practical, offered on a service contract basis at a cost equivalent to hiring labour.

Its real value lies not in labour savings but in providing a solution to the industry’s labour crisis. Some farmers have ceased crop production due to the lack of harvest staff. Additionally, its versatility shines as it not only harvests and transports crops but also treats them with UV light, trims runners, and logs essential data. (Source: Futur Farming)

New intelligent spot spraying system

A new, intelligent spraying system for use in onion, leek, and carrot fields has been launched after a successful collaboration between Techneat Engineering and Tillett and Hague Technology Limited. Weed Wizard is a tractor-driven, front-mounted, 3-bed, 6-metre wide folding boom incorporating an intelligent spraying system. Using very high-speed, narrow jet nozzles spaced every 100 mm across the full width of the boom, its three camera system identifies and tracks weeds as they come into view, applying a narrow flat fan spray onto each weed as it passes under each nozzle.

Each camera tracks a single bed and is mounted directly above the crop row giving the machine the best possible overhead view of the weed population as each crop pass is made. At a working speed of 5 km/h, each nozzle can react multiple times in a matter of milli-seconds ensuring that no targeted weed is missed during each pass. The boom is also deliberately set at a height of only 50 cm above ground level, making the machine far less susceptible to drift in windier conditions when combined with the use of extremely low drift, flat fan nozzles.

The Weed Wizard is available in tank sizes of either 650 or 250 litres, operates in normal daylight conditions, and does not require infra-red technology. “This gives it a significant advantage because it does not require a hood to cover any part of the sprayer to maintain dark conditions. Use of a hood can easily damage the crop during operation,” says Tom Neat, Techneat Engineering’s MD.

A side-shift system also supports the accuracy of the Weed Wizard by ensuring that the sprayer boom maintains a stable position over the crop at all times, even if the tractor cannot, due to uneven ground. The new system offers a number of different pre-settings, enabling the operator to set the minimum weed size for control before operation and vary the quantity of chemicals applied to each target weed to minimise overspray. The operator can also adjust the machine’s field of vision to reflect a 1-bed, 2-bed or 3-bed growing system. Nick Tillett, Director and co-founder of Tillett and Hague Technology who designed the spot sprayer software system used by the Weed Wizard, sees the intelligence and reliability of the system as the keys to its success.

Mr Tillett says: ”The spot sprayer software simultaneously monitors the forward speed of the tractor and assesses the visual data from each camera using computer algorithms to identify weeds based on a combination of factors including the plants position relative to crop rows, size, shape, and colour.

“Although the system was originally designed for targeting volunteer potatoes, it has since been developed to recognise all types of broadleaf weeds. Once a weed has been identified on screen, the algorithm decides which nozzles should be switched on, and for how long, in order to deliver the right quantity of herbicide to each targeted weed with minimum overspray. “The system is fully automated so, once the operator has pre-set the spot sprayer, it will target weeds with a very high degree of accuracy minimising collateral contact with the crop, based on the specific pre-settings. On the software licensing, there are no annual or renewal fees to pay and any upgrades are sent to the user without cost,” he concludes. (Source: www.aafarmer.co.uk)

CNH Venture expanded their Ag Tech solutions for farmers by taking a minority stake in Bem Agro, a Brazilian startup and existing supplier to CNH. Bem Agro uses AI to convert any type of aerial field image, including those taken from machines, drones and satellites, into Agronomic Mapping Reports. These reports provide vital data that enables farmers to make better decisions about optimising field operations, allocating resources and increasing yield. Overall improved machine performance, greater productivity, and reduced running costs are also achieved by using this technology.

In sugarcane, grain and fibre harvesting, where farmers can face low-visibility conditions, Bem Agro’s maps provide guidance lines for course correction and crop damage reduction. Their weed mapping pinpoints specific areas to be sprayed, minimising herbicide usage. This investment follows more than five years of successful commercial partnership with Bem Agro. CNH currently uses their mapping solutions on Case IH and New Holland brands’ Connected Platforms for sugarcane harvesters, tractors and sprayers in Brazil, Indonesia and Thailand. Together with Bem Agro, CNH aims to significantly enhance their current and future precision technology solutions, services, and reach for agriculture across Latin America and Asia Pacific. Positive feedback from the CNH dealer network and customers was instrumental in driving this strategic investment for CNH. (Source: WorldAgritech.com)

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